This Feministing thread has evolved into a really interesting discussion about how to best assist pregnant teenagers, and how the pro-choice movement is dealing with the issue.
The conversation started because of this article, which is about three pregnant teenagers who broke out of the home for pregnant girls that they were being kept in. My first reaction was a hearty “hell yeah.” Girls shouldn’t be sent away because they’re pregnant, and they certainly shouldn’t be isolated from their families and their friends while they go through pregnancy and childbirth. These homes often coerce girls into putting their children up for adoption, and inundate them with conservative Christian ideology. In a lot of ways, they’re bad news.
But as one commenter points out — the woman who cast a 30 Days episode about homes like these — there are lots of girls who could use this kind of support system. Ideally, every pregnant teenager would have a healthy home life, and parents or relatives who were willing to support her. But that isn’t the case. The commenter writes:
Actually, Planned Parenthood has pamphlets on adoption. This is not the same thing as adoption counseling. This is not a real resource. It is a PAMPHLET. I would love to hear of a branch of PP that has adoption services but in 4 months of research (and calling PP repeatedly) that wasn’t anything I found to be true. At best, PP would give them a list of phone numbers to other organizations. Now, keep in mind these are 16 year old girls. The don’t have the emotional maturity for the situation they are in. They usually don’t have the concentration or transportation to get around and check out their adoption options.
The pregnancy crisis centers (who often send these girls to these homes when they come in pregnant and seeing assistance) know that it’s a game of who gets there first. Usually the first place they go will win out. Adult women weigh their options and make choices. But teenage girls aren’t so good at that.
You should talk to the girls and see how they feel about the homes. New Hope is an anomaly – most of the homes I talked to were free, or paid for by the state. Most of the girls were glad to have somewhere to go and were happy to be around other girls going through the same experience.
I am pro-choice, have had an abortion, so I have put my money where my mouth is, and I had a hard time with this subject. I don’t believe in 90% of the philosophy or theology that the people who run these homes do, but I had to be the first to admit – they are nice people with good intentions who usually have mad skills when it comes to dealing with difficult teenage girls. Yes, they like Jesus, yes they believe that it’s bettter if the girls weren’t having sex in the first place. But again, if you aren’t offering the girls a pro-choice option, what choice do they have? And yes, self-esteem training is part of the curriculum. It just has a lot more Jesus than any of us would most likely be comfortable with.
Most of the girls want to stay after the baby is born, and if there is anything criminal going on here, it’s that most of the girls can only stay as long as the baby can fit in a bassinet in her room. Then – what happens to her is up to her.
Pro-choice is asleep at the wheel. Yes, we all know that the movement is pro- contraception and abortion. But when women are really in need, and not prepared to go that route, they need to have more to offer than pamphlets and lists of phone numbers to other social services agencies.
At the risk of getting absolutely killed in the comments, I have to say that I agree with her.
Naturally, there are caveats. I think she underestimates teenage girls. They do weigh their options and choices. But, being young and having only been exposed to limited viewpoints — especially if they’re coming from religious, conservative and/or pro-life families and communities — they may not even have an accurate idea as to what their options are. Or, if they’re like many young people in this country, they’ve been assaulted by anti-choice rhetoric since puberty. The things they’re told by flat-out liars at anti-choice Crisis Pregnancy Centers don’t seem particularly outrageous when they’ve never been told anything else.
Planned Parenthood is an incredible organization, but they aren’t an adoption agency. I wish they were able to offer comprehensive childbirth, childcare, and adoption services, but their budget is stretched paper-thin as it is. Being that they’re the only national organization that offers the kind of low-cost contraception, sexual health, education, and abortion services that they do, given that there are lots of other groups that run adoption agencies and homes for pregnant girls, and given that right-wing attacks have terrified many private abortion providers out of the field, it’s no wonder that Planned Parenthood puts their focus where they do.
But the pro-choice movement as a whole has to do more.
The fact is that many girls are being sent to these pregnancy homes against their will. Many of them are being religiously and ideologically indoctrinated. Many of them find that as soon as they’re no longer useful (i.e., as soon as they’ve had the baby and ideally given it up for adoption into a nice white Christian family) they’re back on their own.
On the other hand, the fact is that there are pregnant girls who are troubled, or have been kicked out of by their parents, or are homeless, or can’t afford the medical expenses that come with pregnancy, or want more support. Girls like this exist in spades, and they deserve non-judgmental, pro-choice support in continuing their pregnancies.
We can do better.
I would love to see a pro-choice option available to teenage girls who choose to continue their pregnancies — with the requirement, of course, that entering into it would be voluntary, and not a situation in which girls are “sent away.”
Similar Posts (automatically generated):
- Why I’m Pro-Choice – Blogging for Choice Part 2 by Jill January 22, 2007
- More Emphatically Pro-Choice with Every Pregnancy by Guest Blogger February 27, 2014
- Must-Read Article on Crisis Pregnancy Centers by Jill May 1, 2006
- Women, Girls and Abortion by Jill October 25, 2006
- Listening to women about abortion by Jill May 26, 2005